Asking Better Questions

The Power of Asking Better Questions

Successful people ask better questions and, as a result, they get better answers. — Anthony Robbinsimage of a head filled with question marks

Asking good questions can improve your reading, listening, writing, test taking, and grades. Too good to be true? Give it a try.

At  first, you’ll probably ask basic questions. It takes time and effort to ask great questions. The more interesting and challenging your questions, the more you learn.

Let’s imagine you have been introduced to someone. We’ll call him Frank.  You sit down to talk. What is the best way to get to know Frank  better?

Would you learn more if Frank talked for one hour straight? Or would you learn more  if you could ask questions…. even if Frank  shared all the same information?

The answer is obvious. When someone talks for an hour straight and you don’t even get a chance to ask a question, you get bored. You tune out.

Do you ever listen to someone who talks for one hour straight, or maybe it’s only 45 minutes?  Of course you do. This is what happens in many classes. Some teachers don’t mind if you interrupt with a question but most students aren’t interested enough to have any questions.

The same thing is true about reading books. When you read a chapter without being involved in the subject, you have problems following what the author is saying. If you could have a conversation, if you could ask questions – especially the kind of questions about something you are interested in – you would learn so much more.

This is why Asking Questions – Asking really good questions – will help you learn more  when you read, write, listen, or prepare for tests.

Questions Improve Reading.

Look over a chapter before reading and write questions. You might ask about terms you don’t know. These are superficial questions. Complex questions are more valuable. They reflect what you already know on the topic. As you read and study, ask more questions.The deeper your questions, the more you learn. When you ask questions about something you are really interested in, you will learn more.

Let’s say you are reading a biology book and the chapter is on Photosynthesis.

Start by listing what you already  know about Photosynthesis.  Then think about what you don’t know. Include information you believe you SHOULD know –  definitions or facts that are likely to be on a test – and also questions you are really interested in. Just as you pay better attention and learn more when you ask questions in a conversation, you pay better attention and learn more and  find it more interesting when you have a “conversation” with the chapter in your book. You start with questions and look forward eagerly to the answers.

Questions improve listening.

Look at the topic of a lecture and write questions on the subject. Students who write questions before and during a lecture find it easier to concentrate, find the lecture more interesting, understand information better, and remember it longer. Just as for reading, you will find lectures more interesting and learn more if you begin with a list of questions.

Questions improve writing.

Instead of hunting for a topic to write about, you can choose one of your best questions. When students write about something that interests them, they often do better research, write more clearly, make better grades, and enjoy the assignment.

Questions help you prepare for tests.

Students who begin with questions find answers to many questions and, because they were more involved, they understand answers better and remember them longer, needing less test preparation.

To prepare for essay questions, write 15-20 possible questions. Be sure you have enough information to answer all of them. Select 3-5 questions and practice writing good answers. This practice increases your ability to write short test-essays . Even if your questions aren’t on the test, you’re more likely to make better grades.

When you learn to write good questions, care about the questions you ask, and try to find answers, you should find your skills in reading, listening, writing and test-taking show improvement.

Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.  — Robert Half

for more information (from of college website:   On the menu click on Links to Site. Then under Verbal Strategies, you will find the page “Ask Questions”


BONUS:  Note: This page is written in the correct form for a short essay like those on essay tests.

1. It begins with a Title              Writing a Short Essay

2. Introduction: The paragraphs after the title are the INTRODUCTION.  They tells you what the essay is about. Generally, the introduction is just one paragraph. Here I used many short paragraphs, introducing the four main ideas and then giving an example to make it easier to understand.

3. Body of the Essay:  There are four main sections. You wouldn’t write them separately or in big print in an essay. In short essays, you would usually use one paragraph  for each main idea. The headings here would be  Topic Sentences… your main ideas for the paragraphs.   In a longer essay you might use several paragraphs for each main ideas, possibly including examples or important  details.

Why do I use large headers, shorter paragraphs, and bold print?  The first reason is that this is a web page. People are more likely to skim a web page and these techniques help readers focus on the main ideas. The second reason is that when Google and other search engines evaluate the site, they rely on titles, headers and bold print to decide what is most important and will direct people to this site based on this information. When you write an essay you would not do any of these things.

4. Conclusion:  In the very last section there are 3 paragraphs. The first two are about preparing for tests. The last paragraph sums up the entire essay. Short essays normally end with a one paragraph conclusion like this.

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